Household Practice

Contribution by Richard

Our last intensive Sesshin retreat brought the Sangha together online over four days, in between mindful walking and work practice at home.  

An unexpected outcome of this, was the emphasis on holding intensive practice within a household setting amongst the noise of family, rather than the usual simplified and quiet structure of Sesshin.

In traditional Buddhist culture, there is a distinction between full-time monastic practice, and household (lay) practices. In our Zen practice, the setting also changes from intensive retreats to households that need tending. So our recent Sesshin was an interesting mix of these two.

A recent book along these themes, is the Book of Householder Koans: Waking Up in the Land of Attachments by Eve Myonen Marko and Wendy Egyoku Nakao, successors of the late Bernie Glassman.

The book reframes the traditional exchange between monk and master in a monastery, with cases from everyday household life. Each chapter has a poem, koan and commentary. A typical example is:

Sara hears her son calling from another room. ”I’m coming!”. She walks down the hall and steps on a lego piece. ”Ouch!” She turns the corner and slips on a superman cape. “Whoa!”. She pushes aside a large pile of laundry on the couch, looks into the eyes of her son, and has an insight.

This is a lively book, covering themes of home, children, work, and ageing. It highlights the many opportunities for practice within ordinary family situations and mundane household problems. As our recent Sesshin has done, it brings practice directly into everyday life.  

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